IPL 2021: Ranking the wicketkeepers of all eight teams

The IPL baton seems to be passing on from MS Dhoni to Rishabh Pant's generation of keepers.
The IPL baton seems to be passing on from MS Dhoni to Rishabh Pant's generation of keepers.

Although the 2021 Indian Premier League (IPL) season was cut short when the bio-bubble was compromised, the tournament did give fans and players a taste of the athleticism and thrill that it promises. Among other reasons, the ever-increasing standards of fielding and wicketkeeping made the tournament a benchmark for cricket played everywhere else.

IPL 2021 featured four keeper-captains, one keeper-vice captain, and three foreign wicketkeepers who were also batting lynchpins for their respective teams. While some of them were able to manage their twin burdens with ease, others faltered with the bat or in the captaincy department.

Here are the rankings for the wicketkeepers from each team.

#8 Chennai Super Kings (MS Dhoni)

MS Dhoni has struggled with the bat this season.
MS Dhoni has struggled with the bat this season.

It is hard to fathom how little the Chennai Super Kings (CSK) have relied on skipper MS Dhoni, either with bat or behind the stumps. The IPL veteran has been humble about his inferior batting form when contrasted with the likes of the all-rounders present in the team, and has thus rarely given himself chances ahead of the younger players.

Dhoni's batting returns were hardly anything to write home about this season - in 7 IPL games, he batted four times and accumulated a total of 37 runs. As CSK flew high this season as a team, their skipper's rough run of form was hidden conveniently.

#7 Mumbai Indians (Quinton de Kock, Ishan Kishan)

The Mumbai Indians (MI) appeared to be strong contenders after a few good wins towards the IPL's halfway mark, but have been much patchier than their dominant display over the past two seasons. Part of that was due to the lacklustre efforts of their two keeper-batsmen, Ishan Kishan and Quinton de Kock.

Kishan, who kept wickets in De Kock's absence during the IPL's first game, was dropped from the side after striking at a paltry 83 and averaging below 15. While De Kock scored big on one occasion, he had a season strike rate of 117 which added pressure on the likes of Rohit Sharma, Suryakumar Yadav and the all-rounders.

Although MI are unlikely to tinker with their combination much if and when the IPL resumes, the returns from the duo have been disappointing.

#6 Kolkata Knight Riders (Dinesh Karthik)

Dinesh Karthik has been a vital part of the Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) setup since 2018 - as skipper initially, but more generally as keeper and batsman. In the past, he has been a middle-order glue with his strong game against spin and has shown the ability to finish matches well with his precise placement and timing.

While he stood up on a few select occasions this IPL, including cameos during KKR's two wins, 123 runs from 7 innings were poor returns from the vice-captain. Although his keeping was mostly very solid, the lack of runs and the occasional poor DRS suggestion ensure Karthik cannot be ranked much higher in this list.

#5 Sunrisers Hyderabad (Jonny Bairstow, Wriddhiman Saha)

Wriddhiman Saha couldn't hold down his hard-earned IPL spot.
Wriddhiman Saha couldn't hold down his hard-earned IPL spot.

In a franchise that was in the news for all the wrong reasons just before the termination of the season - dropping their skipper and IPL veteran David Warner, languishing at the bottom of the points table, COVID-19 in the camp - Jonny Bairstow was one of the saving graces.

The English keeper-batsman, a pivotal figure in the team since he joined in 2019, was the Sunrisers Hyderabad's highest run-scorer and the 9th highest of the season overall.

Part of the reason why he had the gloves in the first place was the failure of the initial Sunrisers wicketkeeper, Wriddhiman Saha. Widely acknowledged as one of India's most technically proficient keepers, Saha struggled with the bat and was rightly dropped.

While Bairstow was in good form, he wasn't perfect behind the stumps in IPL 2021, keeping him behind some of the better keepers in this list.

#4 Delhi Capitals (Rishabh Pant)

One of the lowest points of Rishabh Pant's international career was the home season in 2019. The young keeper-batsman made unforced errors under pressure and was jeered with chants of "Dhoni, Dhoni" when he made mistakes and let opportunities go begging.

Pant has come a long way since then, regaining his batting touch but most importantly, improving by leaps and bounds as a wicketkeeper.

IPL 2021 saw Pant take a central role for the Delhi Capitals, as captain but also as a batsman who needs to consistently contribute. So far he has done that, dragging the game close even when he couldn't find his timing, and punishing the opposition when he could.

Pant's returns have meant DC easily thrived in the league despite Shreyas Iyer's absence.

#3 Royal Challengers Bangalore (AB de Villiers)

AB de Villiers continued to light up the IPL in 2021 with his batting.
AB de Villiers continued to light up the IPL in 2021 with his batting.

One of the highest impact players of the tournament on the occasions where he has teed off, AB de Villiers showed that even after so many years, he can do the job for the Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB). His strike rate, above 164, was the second-highest among the top 20 run-scorers in the season, behind only Prithvi Shaw.

With the gloves, De Villiers was a solid bargain for the Royal Challengers, although they could have concerns about his longevity in that position. Though he did fall early to spin on some occasions this IPL, De Villiers continued to give RCB the finishes to the innings which they were after.

#2 Rajasthan Royals (Sanju Samson)

Apart from being one of the most athletic keepers in the league, Sanju Samson has established himself as one of the most fearsome batsmen when he gets going. Laying down the marker with a phenomenal century in a losing cause in Rajasthan Royals' (RR's) first game of the season, Samson did add a few more important contributions to finish the terminated season at fifth on the runs tally.

Samson's wicketkeeping abilities, combined with the strategic benefit of captaining from behind the stumps, have consigned one of the world's best white-ball keepers in Jos Buttler to the outfield. In the absence of a few key foreign stars, Samson ensured RR did manage to string together a few wins to give themselves a fighting chance in the second half of IPL 2021.

#1 Punjab Kings (KL Rahul, Prabhsimran Singh)

Punjab Kings would hope to have Rahul's services whenever the IPL resumes.
Punjab Kings would hope to have Rahul's services whenever the IPL resumes.

Although KL Rahul's performance with the bat has been superb since his move to the Punjab Kings (then Kings XI Punjab) in IPL 2018, the added load of the captaincy and wicketkeeping duties has been hard for him to handle. Still, the Karnataka lad has managed his keeping quite well without making too many mistakes.

The Punjab Kings have taken note of Rahul's overburdening, and tried to split the load with the likes of Nicholas Pooran and Prabhsimran Singh. However, the duo were in poor form this IPL season, compounding the woes for Punjab and KL Rahul. What is worth noting is Prabhsimran's wicketkeeping skills, which were sharp against pace and spin.

Rahul ended the season second on the overall IPL 2021 runs tally, a testament to his ability.

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Edited by Sai Krishna
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